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J Environ Radioact ; 226: 106354, 2021 Jan.
Artigo em Inglês | MEDLINE | ID: mdl-33046265


Tritium, the radioactive isotope of hydrogen, has been used to understand groundwater recharge processes for decades. The current variation of tritium in the atmosphere is largely attributed to stratospheric production and fall out rates as well as global circulation phenomena controlling the hydrological cycle. Global controls on the variability in atmospheric tritium activity are poorly suited to explain local variation and tritium activities in precipitation are often assumed to be uniform over both local and regional catchments and watersheds. This assumption can result in both over and under estimation of modern recharge within an aquifer when using tritium as the recharge proxy. In order to minimize the inherent prediction residuals associated with tritium based recharge investigations, the variability of tritium in precipitation was modelled from 127 spatial precipitation samples taken over a two year period, combined with a 76 precipitation sample group-set taken over a one year period in a single location. Precipitation events were traced backward in time, from the point of collection, using HYSPLIT modelling to ascertain the origins of moisture content as well as the altitudes of moisture origin reached along the particle track. Tritium activities, collected over a one year period in Paarl, range from 0.45 to 4.16 TU and have a mean of 1.59 TU. Spatial storm events in the Western Cape in 2017 and 2018 had a range from 0 to 2.2 and 0.37 to 3.27 TU, respectively, with mean activities of 1.18 (n = 34) and 1.25 TU (n = 32). Both storm events had similar tritium variability (σ = 0.5 n = 35 and 0.48 n = 32). Regional precipitation events had the largest range of tritium activities (0.55-12.2 TU). Although not all tritium activities can be explained by interrogating the water mass origin, this study suggests that approximately 90% of events can be completely or partially attributed to the origin of the water mass. The variability of tritium, both spatially and temporally, was higher than expected, confirming that when uniform tritium inputs are used, the groundwater system would provide inaccurate modern recharge estimates. Higher spatial resolution of tritium variation in precipitation for a particular region will improve our ability to relate tritium activities in groundwater to local precipitation.

Monitoramento de Radiação , Trítio/análise , Água Subterrânea , Hidrologia , África do Sul